Skip to main content

Data for: Paternity sharing in insects with female competition for nuptial gifts

Cite this dataset

Browne, Jessica; Gwynne, Darryl (2023). Data for: Paternity sharing in insects with female competition for nuptial gifts [Dataset]. Dryad.


Male parental investment is expected to be associated with high confidence of paternity. Studies of species with exclusive male parental care have provided support for this hypothesis because mating typically co-occurs with each oviposition, allowing control over paternity and the allocation of care. However, in systems where males invest by feeding mates (typically arthropods) mating (and thus the investment) is separated from egg-laying, resulting in less control over insemination (as male ejaculates compete with rival sperm stored by females) and a greater risk of investing in unrelated offspring (cuckoldry). As strong selection on males to increase paternity would compromise the fitness of all a female’s other mates that make costly nutrient contributions, paternity sharing (males not excluded from siring offspring) is an expected outcome of sperm competition. Using wild-caught females in an orthopteran and a dipteran species, in which sexually selected, ornamented females compete for male nuptial food gifts needed for successful reproduction, we examined paternity patterns and compared them to findings in other insects. We used microsatellite analysis of offspring (lifetime reproduction in the orthopteran) and stored sperm from wild-caught females in both study species, and as predicted there was evidence of shared paternity as few males failed to sire offspring. Further support for paternity-sharing is the lack of last-male sperm precedence in our study species. Although paternity was not equal among sires, our estimates of paternity bias were similar to other insects with valuable nuptial gifts and contrasted with the finding that males are frequently excluded from siring offspring in species where males supply little more than sperm. This suggests paternity bias may be reduced in nuptial-gift systems and may help facilitate the evolution of these paternal investments.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Award: 458057